Concerns raised over leisure centre pricing

'˜People will vote with their feet and go to Eyemouth or Duns' '“ that's the view of one councillor following changes to pricing at leisure centres.

Thursday, 27th October 2016, 1:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th October 2016, 4:31 pm

Active Northumberland, the county council’s leisure partner, is introducing ‘county-wide simpler pricing’ from November 1 (Tuesday).

The arm’s-length body claims that the ‘current complex system of dozens of different prices being charged by similar centres was unfair to users who ended up paying more than others’.

However, the changes have already sparked a number of concerns among users, including the abolition of some concessionary rates and the fact that the costs are rising for some.

The issue was raised at Monday night’s meeting of Berwick Town Council by resident Peter Pink, who has had honorary membership at the Swan Centre for 26 years.

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“I was really embarrassed,” he said, when his membership was questioned last week. “I think it’s disgraceful that they are taking this away from a disabled pensioner.”

Cllr Eric Goodyer said a constituent had raised a similar issue with him and he also took the opportunity to express his ‘extreme concern about the rise in rates’, adding that as a Labour member, he was ‘ashamed’ that a Labour-run council ‘has no consideration for people on low incomes’.

“I expect people in Berwick will vote with their feet and go to Eyemouth or to Duns,” he added.

There was unanimous approval among members to raise the issue with Northumberland County Council, both in respect of Mr Pink’s issue and the wider concerns.

Lorraine Dewison, chief executive of Active Northumberland, said: “These changes will ensure our fantastic leisure facilities will be available to everyone all over this great county in a fairer, easy-to-understand way.

“As the body running leisure centre services for the county council, we want to protect, maintain and improve the venues, despite a national picture of financial cutbacks.

“Other leisure providers feel they have no alternative but to close sites – in Northumberland, we have instead decided to think creatively so that we can keep and expand as many facilities as possible for residents, while ensuring we get the best value out of every pound spent.”